The Federal Government has warned that any welfare recipients who fail drug tests will risk being forced onto a total income management scheme.
The government are due to begin the mandatory testing of 5000 new Centrelink customers next year, and while it is expected that less than 10% of those subjected will test positive to illicit substances, a zero-tolerance policy is still seeming likely to those caught.
This represents a step up in government intentions to crack down on misuse of welfare, after the cashless welfare scheme was introduced to try and control the uses of benefit money.
The Department of Social Services has said that any subsequent second test failure would result on the customer being charged for the cost of the drug tests and referred for medical treatment. According to Cath Halbert, even if ongoing medical treatment is not needed, income will continued to be quarantined “at least for the duration of the trial and potentially for up to two years”.
However, there has been vocal opposition from Greens senator Rachel Siewert, who has questioned the legitimacy of the government’s claim that the move is designed to protect the health of the people involved.
“If they cared about providing health services, why do people have to fail a second test for treatment, yet you’re dumped on the card after round one?” she told the ABC. “It is becoming clearer by the minute that the drug testing is designed to push people at the first opportunity onto income quarantining.”
The locations and extent of the trials have yet to be fully confirmed, with several options for the type of income management still on the table.